MOUNT MORRIS — In order to make way for the future we must first dig up the past.
Justin Tubiolo of the Mount Morris Archaeology Team invited Genesee Country Express up to witness what they have discovered in the ground near the Mill Mansion.
There has been a lot of work done at the Mills Mansion as well as the parking lot for The Arc of Livingston and Wyoming Counties, and Matt O’Dell’s property next to the mansion.
Gen. William Mills built the mansion in 1838, but before that had a log cabin and log house built on the same patch of land.
Artifacts go back hundreds and even thousands of years deep in the dirt in that area.
“Mills was one of the first people to buy land here after the Revolutionary War,” Tubiolo said. “Mills’ original home covered 16 acres of land. Mills was friends with the nearby Seneca Tribe, and they let him have some of their land.”
Mills had raised his family by the time the Mills Mansion was built. Mills’ son, Dr. Myron Mills bought a mansion of his own that still stands next to the Mills Mansion, and built an office that looks like a little house between them in 1875.
Tubiolo added the team has been doing a lot of work in the last couple of years around the area.
Once the The Arc of Livingston and Wyoming Counties decided to take down an old house to make a parking lot behind the property they allowed the team to dig there.
“We looked at what they plowed up once they made the picnic tables and parking lot,” Tubiolo said. “Martin Miskell has been very kind to let us dig there.”
The land behind the mansion was used as a play area for the children and gardens. For this reason the team is able to find things from the ancient Native American people and old tools from a couple of tool shops long ago.
Matt O’Dell is fascinated by what the team is doing on his property, and has given them permission to dig there as long as they want. O’Dell has recently cut down some of the old Black Walnut trees on his land, and the team is figuring out the age and purpose of the trees.
“Wood lots were a very important part of any homestead in early America,” Tubiolo said. “These trees have been harvested at least two times since Mills’ time.”
The oldest tree is a hundred years old, and there are many in the 50s and 80s range.
“It is hard to believe there is much value found right here in my backyard,” O’Dell said. “I bought the house a couple of months ago, and I want to leave it the way it is. I am going to let Justin and his team dig up the land. I plan on keeping this long-term.”
Myron Mills got involved in the public works business, and created the first waterlines on Main Street. He built the office to collect public utilities from the residents of the area. It remained that until the 1950s.
“We are learning a lot about Mount Morris in the early days,” Tubiolo said. “We have found a lot from the original owner of the property and founder of Mount Morris. We are discovering a footprint to help us understand the past.”
After several decades the team will no longer be working on the Mills Mansion property. However, they plan on working on the properties next to the mansion for awhile.
“We are detectives,” Tubiolo said. “We follow the clues in archaeology until we find what we are looking for. We are the ones who try to understand the past.”